ActionAid International

MAY 31, 2006
5:57 AM

CONTACT: ActionAid International
Kate Nustedt, Johannesburg, +27 11 731 4592/+27 82 319 6043
Leah Boonthanom, Bangkok, +66 9 788 8330
John Samuel, Bangkok, +66 1 890 2025
GB Adhikari, Afghanistan, +93 79 043 656

Four Men Arrested in Connection with the Killing of Three Female ActionAid Staff in Northern Afghanistan
KABUL - May 31 - Four men have been arrested and are detained in connection with the killing of three female project staff of international anti-poverty agency, ActionAid, and their driver, who were shot dead on Tuesday May 30 in the northern Afghanistan province of Jawzjan, about 500 kilometers from Kabul.   No motive has yet been established for these killings.
The women were traveling to work when their vehicle was ambushed between the villages of Abbas and Khala Jabachi by two unidentified gunmen riding past on motorcycles between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. All three died immediately, along with the driver.
The women were all Afghan nationals from Jawzjan province, employed with ActionAid for one year. They have been identified as Sabat (45) and Karima (45), both social organizers, and Benafshai (19), an administrative assistant*. The driver was Ahemad Shah (27), employed by a local car hire company.
"ActionAid condemns the killing of three innocent women who were killed whilst undertaking important humanitarian work in Afghanistan ," said John Samuel, Asia International Director for ActionAid. "Women are the most vulnerable in Afghanistan and it is important that ActionAid continues to work with them so that they have rights and justice."
Sabat, Karima and Benafshai were on their way to local village communities to undertake social project work with the National Solidarity Programme, a government-run project.  ActionAid is one of 24 implementing partners of this project and we have been working with these local communities for over three years.
The funerals were conducted this morning and attended by family and friends of the deceased, as well as by local ActionAid staff. 
"ActionAid was very welcomed by the local villagers in Jawzjan province and so we are shocked that such a tragic incident could occur," said GB Adhikari, Country Director of ActionAid in Afghanistan, noting that the northern provinces are usually considered safer than Kabul and the southern provinces.
ActionAid remains committed to the delivery of humanitarian work in Afghanistan but staff security is paramount. ActionAid is taking all necessary steps to better understand the situation and to ensure that the families of those killed are supported at this time.
The  ActionAid office in Kabul was closed on Monday following riots in the area and all 27 full-time staff and 125 project contractors have been told to stay  at home  for 48 hours.

* For security reasons and to ensure the safety of the victims' families, ActionAid has chosen not to disclose the full names or photographs of the women.